The state government has approved the proposal to amend the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, for conducting elections of sarpanches directly by the electorate of halqa panchayats and not by the indirect method of electing sarpanches from among the panches themselves.
The decision was approved at the fourth meeting of the State Administrative Council (SAC) held under the chairmanship of Governor NN Vohra on Thursday. Advisers to Governor BB Vyas, K Vijay Kumar and Khurshid Ahmad Ganai besides Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam attended the meeting.
The move will restore the original position in the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act, 1989, which provided for direct elections of sarpanches, a position altered by an amendment passed in 2016.The need for having this amendment was to restore the primacy and importance of sarpanches in the panchayati raj system and giving them the necessary legitimacy to be able to discharge their functions. Direct elections make sarpanches accountable to the people rather than to an intermediate group. Further, the amendment brings the spirit of the 73rd constitutional amendment to the Jammu and Kashmir Panchayati Raj Act.
The SAC also directed the Department of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj to initiate the process of holding elections to panchayats in consultation with the Chief Electoral Officer, J&K.With the holding of elections to the panchayats, the institution of local self-governance at the village level will be revived in the state, thereby furthering inclusion and percolation of benefits of decentralised planning at the grass-roots level. It will also ensure greater participation of people in the planning and formulation of area-specific policies and programmes and hence their involvement in the decision-making process.
Amendments in the past
July 2, 2016: Amid protests by the Opposition, the J&K legislature had passed an amendment to the state Panchayati Raj Act, allowing indirect election of sarpanches by panches
July 25: Governor NN Vohra had returned the Bill with certain queries
December 19: Vohra gave his assent to the Bill called J&K Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2016. As per the Bill, people would elect only panches in the panchayat elections and there would be no direct election of sarpanches (not to be elected by electorates), which was the case in the 2011 panchayat elections
On February 9, 2018: National Conference and Congress legislators moved a Private Members’ Bill seeking amendment to Panchayati Raj Act. They sought withdrawal of amendment that mandated the indirect poll of sarpanches